It’s the show that has raised serious questions about the American criminal justice system, turned two Wisconsin defense lawyers into Internet heroes, and sparked dozens of conspiracy theories by the web’s wannabe detectives.
“Making a Murderer,” the 10-part documentary following the story of Steven Avery — a Wisconsin native who spent 18 years in jail after being wrongly convicted of rape in 1985 — has been a surprise winter hit for Netflix, the online video streaming service.
The series, which focuses on how Avery found himself re-arrested and tried for murder in a separate case a short time after his post-acquittal from jail — and under circumstances that suggest he may have been framed by the local Sheriff’s department — has had viewers hooked.
But if you’re now suffering withdrawal symptoms after binge-watching the 10-hour documentary (and you’ve already read through the numerous, high-engaging Reddit threads devoted to it), help is at hand.
Here are seven true crime tales that will have you similarly gripped.
#1 “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town” (2006)
John Grisham’s 2006 book “The Innocent Man” — his first work of non-fiction — is the ideal antidote if you’re suffering from true crime withdrawal. The book tells the story of Ron Williamson, a former major league baseball prospect who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988 for the rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter.
As Grisham documents, however, the local police and district attorney more or less fabricated the case against him through incompetent investigative work and aggressive interrogation methods (sound familiar?). In 1999, the Innocence Project introduced new DNA evidence that saw Williamson released and acquitted.
#2 “Serial” (2014)
Serial, the expertly produced podcast series from the makers of “This American Life”, has a strong claim to being the catalyst for the latest burst of interest in true crime documentaries. It took the Internet by storm when it was released in 2014, quickly becoming the most downloaded podcast ever.
Narrated by journalist Sarah Koenig, Serial looks at the case of Adnan Syed who was convicted in 1999 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee but has always maintained his innocence. Syed’s case is far from straightforward, however. The evidence Koenig uncovers is often partial and sometimes contradictory, constantly causing listeners to reassess their views of Syed’s complicity.
#3 “American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson” (2016)
Despite the FX network’s new blockbuster clearly lacking one of the major draws of the true-crime genre — suspense (the OJ Simpson case is, of course, one of the most well-publicized in modern history) — it is still a masterpiece docudrama that will more than capably fill your true crime void.
The show’s mega-cast, including John Travolta, Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, and Cuba Gooding Jr., deliver stellar performances that bring the controversial case back to life and will definitely have you hooked.
#4 “The Krays” (1990)
London’s most notorious gangsters, the Kray twins, held sway over the East End of London in the early 1960s. The British movie “The Krays,” released in 1990, is widely regarded to be the best portrayal of the brother’s criminal lives.
Be warned, though, that the film takes a no-holds-barred approach to depicting the twins’ violent rise to power and fame (a sword, for example, is used regularly to painful effect) The movie follows the twin’s lives from their birth right at the end of World War Two, through their peak years of violent dominance in the early 1960s, and finally their capture and downfall in the middle of the decade.
#5 “The Central Park Five” (2012)
“The Central Park Five” is a book-turned-movie that tells the story of one of New York’s most infamous miscarriages of justice: the wrongful conviction of five black and Latino teenagers for the rape and murder of a woman in New York’s Central Park.
In April 1989, a body was discovered, crumpled in a ravine, in the center of Central Park. The victim had been raped and severely beaten. Within days, police arrested the five teenagers who confessed to the crime despite no evidence linking them to the victim. When DNA evidence exonerated the five, over a decade later, serious failings in New York’s police, social services and criminal justice system were revealed.
#6 “The Jinx” (2015)
This HBO miniseries investigates the unsolved 1982 murder of Kathie Durst, the 2000 killing of writer Susan Berman, and the 2001 dismemberment of Morris Black. All three murder victims were closely associated with the wealthy New York real estate heir Robert Durst.
Across the show’s six episodes, the filmmakers, Andrew Jarecki, Marc Smerling and Zachary Stuart-Pontier, painstakingly piece together existing footage, archival interviews, visual reenactments and new footage and discussions with Durst himself to shed new light on the killings. Was Durst guilty of the murders? You’ll have to watch the series.
#7 “The Thin Blue Line” (1988)
Errol Morris’s 1988 depiction of the story of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a murder he did not commit, is considered by some critics to be one of the greatest documentary film ever made.
In October 1976,, Adams ran out of gas and was picked up by 16-year-old runaway David Harris. Later that night, they drank and smoked together. Then, their stories diverged: Adams claims to have returned to his motel. Harris, on the other hand, said that they were stopped by police and that Adams suddenly shot the police officer that was approaching the car.
The movie presents the evidence as gathered by the police, who were under pressure to quickly clear the case, followed by a much more detailed analysis of the facts of the case. As the evidence is presented it becomes apparent that Adams is a very weak suspect while there is much to link Harris to the killing.